2015 Atlantic 10 Tournament Expert Picks and Betting Odds
by Robert Ferringo - 3/9/2015
I know that college basketball isn't for everyone. A lot of people don't want to waste time following the smaller conferences and prefer big-name schools with star players. But for fans of just pure, unadulterated hoops competition it won't get any better than the Atlantic 10 Tournament this year.
The Atlantic 10 Tournament will be played at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York. The tournament will run from March 11 to March 15 and will be the most wide-open, exciting tournament in the nation.
The A-10 is the No. 8 conference in the country, ahead of both the Missouri Valley and the Mountain West. With 14 teams, it's the same size as the Super Six leagues. And with six legitimate threats to win it all and a razor-thin margin on a neutral site between the No. 2 team and the No. 10 team, this tournament will be a free-for-all.
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Here is Doc's Sports Atlantic 10 Conference Tournament preview (with projected futures odds in parentheses):
The Favorite: Davidson (+150)
The Wildcats have been an absolutely wrecking ball and are one of the hottest teams in the country coming into March. They've won nine straight games, and the last three have come by an average score of 88.7 to 66.3. Those wins didn't come against dregs either, as victims George Washington and VCU both spent time in the Top 25 this year. The Wildcats are an offensive juggernaut and are rated as the fifth-most-efficient attack in the land, and they are in the Top 10 in the country in both scoring and 3-point shooting. Oh, and the Wildcats have been by far the best bet in college basketball this year, going 22-4 against the spread. They run a four-guard offense with just one player taller than 6-4 in the starting lineup. They are young but also athletic, and their frantic energy can definitely lead them to three wins and a title.
The Contender: Dayton (+250)
The Flyers have 23 wins to their credit, and the foundation of this team was the same group that made it to the Sweet 16 last year. Despite injuries and suspensions whittling the roster down to just seven scholarship players, the Flyers still fought their way to second place in the league. They have beaten two of the better teams, Rhode Island and VCU, in the last 10 days, and senior Jordan Sibert is one of the best guards in the league. However, there are issues with this team. They really only play six guys. I don't see how they could win three games in three days with that short of a bench. Also, Dayton has pretty much locked in an NCAA Tournament berth, so there's the question of motivation for these guys. They are in the same part of the bracket with Rhode Island and George Washington, two teams that have to win their way into the Field of 68. I'm not as high on this group as some people are. But their recent success is hard to ignore.
The Sleeper: Rhode Island (+350)
The Rams were a pleasant surprise in the A-10 this year after spending most of the decade swimming in the shallow end of the league pool. Dan Hurley has done a masterful rebuilding job and has this team playing well on both ends. The Rams suffered five league losses this year and finished in third place. But four of those losses were by five points or less, including a one-point loss to Davidson on Feb. 25. Rhode Island is a defensive-oriented team, which always seem to fare well in this league. They are the "tails" to Davidson's "heads", as the Rams are in the Top 20 in both scoring defense and 3-point defense. However, Rhode Island can't shoot. At all. They make just 28.5 percent of their 3-point shots (No. 342) and just 65 percent of their free throws (No. 308). They can't win this tournament without being able to score from the perimeter. This team is also very young, with four underclassmen starting and just one senior, brutish Gilvydas Biruta, getting major minutes.
The Spoiler: George Washington (+700)
The Colonels have been an up-and-down team this year, but there is talent to do some damage this year. GW was good enough to beat Colorado and Wichita State back in December. But they were bad enough to lose six of seven games in late January into February. They have managed to win three of their last four, though, and their weak showing to start February had as much to do with a brutal schedule as it did their poor play. The Colonels have experience and size - they start three guys 6-6 or taller, a rarity in this league - and they have a path on which to do some damage. They should win their second-round matchup. That would lead to a date with a vulnerable Rhode Island team. After that Dayton or one of the Saint's would be waiting. I think GW matches up well with Dayton. This is a team that looked like a tourney squad in late January before their slide. They know the only way to make the NCAA Tournament is to win out. Desperation makes them dangerous.
Bubble Team To Watch: Richmond (+400)
The Spiders seem to be peaking at the right time, winning six straight heading into the tourney. That includes road wins at Massachusetts and St. Joe's as well as wins over George Washington and VCU. Richmond has one guy, Kendall Anthony, that's capable of carrying this team to a title, and they have a slow pace and Princeton offense that can help them conserve energy if they need to play three games in three days. Richmond has gone 16-8 in their last 24 games. Seven of those eight losses were by five points or less and five of them were by a single basket. They are headed for a date with VCU and, if they can beat the Rams a third time this year, Davidson. If they were to win those games they would at least get themselves into the conversation.
Early Round Matchup To Watch:
No. 4 Richmond (-2.5) vs. No. 5 VCU (2:30 p.m., Thursday, March 12)
This has the opportunity to be the second meeting between these teams in the past two weeks and the third meeting in the last five weeks. These teams are in-state rivals, and they played two meaningful regular season games, with the Spiders winning both. They upset 17-3 VCU on Jan. 31 in a game most noteworthy for the Rams losing hero senior guard Briante Weber for the year to a torn ACL and MCL. The Rams also won the rematch - on the road - on Feb. 25 in a thrilling double-overtime game. There is genuine animosity in this series, and the stakes are high in this one.
Atlantic 10 Conference Tournament Predictions: As I look at the bracket, the path for the top seeds seems pretty straightforward. But it never is. This league is notorious for wild and wacky happenings, and 10-seeds, nine-seeds and seven-seeds have each advanced to the championship game in the past decade. In fact, the No. 1 seed has only won the A-10 two times in the last 10 tournaments, and there has been a 1-2 matchup in the finals just once. I think that George Washington is going to make a run. And I think that each of the top four seeds is very vulnerable, and at least one of them will get knocked off in the first game. I don't think Davidson is going to run roughshod over this tournament like they have the league, and my prediction is that someone seeded No. 3 or lower ends up taking the title. I expect upsets, buzzer beaters, and overtimes - all the hallmarks of a classic March Madness tournament.
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